USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘light’
Digital
general
Humor

Venezuelan Power Outage Meme

Context: This meme was sent to me after we discussed the usage of Whatsapp in by Venezuelans to spread jokes, especially concerning the current Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and recent power outage that swept the nation in March 2019.

Piece:

venezuela meme

Exact Translation: What is the sensation of living in Venezuela? Something like this but without light.

Holistic Translation: What does it feel like to live in Venezuela? Something like this but without power.

Background: The informant is a middle aged Venezuelan woman who lives in Boston. She sent this meme via Whatsapp to me as a part of a meme chain. She initially received it from a family member who also sent it through Whatsapp.

Analysis:This meme is part of the new wave of folklore being spread through the Internet. In particular, Whatsapp, a communication app, has become a way for people to communicate globally without the restriction of being in different nations. Whatsapp usage is widely used by Venezuelans, and in recent years has become the mode of communication for families who have migrated due to the dictatorial regime. Whatsapp is not only used for regular communication, but also to share jokes and memes among the Venezuelan community. The informant stated that they receive new jokes or memes daily from family members and continue the pattern by sharing to more contacts.

This meme in particular is a great example of a Disaster Joke. This form of joke is used as a coping mechanism surrounding a traumatic disaster or situation in order to release stress or tension. This joke insinuates that living in Venezuela– which is currently dealing with massive food shortages, high crime rates, lack of medicine and massive power outages– is like being stuck on the edge of a cliff, which is bad enough, and then not having any power. This meme is humorous because of its extreme imagery relating to the already horrifying situation and then the addition of the power outage on top of the bad crisis, showing a form of ironic humor. It is remarkable that a community undergoing such horrific circumstances has the ability to deal with it in such a lighthearted way, most likely because it is the only true way to cope.

 

 

Holidays
Legends
Myths
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Diwali Holiday and Legend

Context: The informant, a 19-year-old female college student of Indian and Pakistani descent, described the Indian holiday of Diwali to me when we were discussing how her mixed cultural background has shaped her worldview today.

Text:

Informant: Probably the most popular holiday in the Indian culture is Diwali. Basically, the way my family celebrates it, is that my dad always turns on every single light in the house. So, like he lights a bunch of candles, and it’s supposed to serve as a symbol of light in darkness. So, when the sun goes down, you turn on all the lights in your house. Basically the way my dad told me the story of like why the lights in the house are on is that there was once a prince and he had a wife. There was this demon character who kidnapped his wife and somehow the prince defeated the demon. Then, in order for the princess to find a way back, everyone in the town lit candles so she could find her way back to him. So, the holiday is a symbol of love conquering all and light overcoming darkness. I think it usually happens in October… or November… usually around my birthday. There are other activities that go along with it, but I don’t really know…. I think it’s like a family-oriented holiday. I actually think people give money… people give… we go to my grandparents’ house and they give us money! I think it’s supposed to be like how in some cultures people give money on New Year’s for good luck and wealth and good fortune in the new year. We celebrate with family and food and that kind of stuff. You mostly just stay in and light candles and eat good food and celebrate with family.

Informant’s relationship to the item: The informant typically celebrated Diwali growing up in her household, but it has been several years since she last took part in the festivities. Her excitement about the holiday increased as she continued to describe the rituals associated with it; the details of the holiday came back to her as she spoke, despite not celebrating Diwali since her childhood. She explained how the holiday not only helped connect her to her immediate family, as her dad taught her about the legend surrounding Diwali, but also to her extended family, as the holiday included visits to her grandparents’ home. The informant also clearly understands the symbolic importance of Diwali (light overcoming darkness), as well as the holiday’s similarities to celebrations in other cultures that include giving money as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.

Interpretation: In addition to the informant’s insights on the symbolic importance of Diwali, the holiday, like many others around the world, clearly has spatial and temporal significance. The informant mentioned that the events of Diwali typically take place within the homes of family members — both immediate and extended. This prescribed space relates to the holiday’s legendary origin, as well as its association with family bonding and connection. The holiday also takes place around the time of the harvest season (specifically, between mid-October and mid-November). This time period is significant on the circular calendar because it takes place after the conclusion of the summer harvest, and typically coincides with the new moon — the darkest night on the Hindu lunisolar calendar. The main event of Diwali — the lighting of lights and candles — is meant to overcome this darkness at the onset of winter, reminding people that light overcomes darkness and wisdom triumphs over ignorance. After conducting my own research on the legend surrounding the holiday, I discovered that there are several different versions of the story my informant recalled. The most popular variation on the legend is the story of the homecoming of the Lord Rama, returning after his exile and journeyings of 14 years to take his rightful throne. He brings with him Sita, his wife, rescued from Ravana, the demon king. The palace and the city were illuminated for him to help him find his way back. Despite having slightly different plot points in her version of the story, with the most notable difference being that Sita makes the journey home alone in her retelling, my informant understood the symbolic importance of the legend: that love conquers all.

Works Cited:

For another version of the legend surrounding the Indian holiday of Diwali, please see p. 53-54 of E.F Coote Lake’s 1960 “Folk Life and Traditions.”

E. F. Coote Lake. “Folk Life and Traditions.” Folklore, vol. 71, no. 1, 1960, pp. 52–58. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1258790.

Customs
Earth cycle
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Martinmas Festival

Content:
Informant – “On November 11th, Waldorf schools around the world celebrate Martinmas. As the story goes, Saint Martin was a Roman soldier. He saw a beggar shivering in the cold, so Martin cut his own cloak in half and covered the beggar with half. The beggar was actually Christ. To commemorate his generosity, the 1st and 2nd graders create lanterns and walk through campus sharing the light with the school”

Context:
Informant – “This is a festival of light. As the light decreases on Earth, the light becomes more inward. We bring the light inwards so that we carry the light within. Martinmas is celebration of Saint Martin, but it is also a sharing of our own internal light with the everyone.”
The informant learned about this festival when she started teaching at Waldorf.

Analysis:
Despite the references to Saint Martin and Christ, the actual festival is more pagan than Christian. It’s interesting that only the youngest grades make the lanterns and carry them through the school. Not only are they are spreading light at a time of darkness, they are also spreading youth and life at a time of dying.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Gestures

Ghost light (Theatre)

Allegra:  I think this might be pretty common folklore, but every theater has a ghost. Sometimes, in particularly old theaters, a ghost can cause disruptions if not appeased.

Me: Have you ever experienced a theater ghost?

Allegra: Yes. Many times. Our high school theatre had a ghost who would take the bra from a quick change pile and move it to the opposite side of backstage. Well, perhaps that wasn’t a ghost. Probably just a bad techie. Anyway, yes the ghost light is kept on in empty theaters (theaters which are not in rehearsal or performance) to appease the ghost, and I suppose for safety reasons as well. People do not want to be fumbling around in a dark theatre when they enter.

Me: What do they look like?

Allegra: Well it’s a lightbulb on top of a metal stand, and there is usually a cage around the light. Whoever leaves the theatre last is supposed to plug it in so that the next person can see.

Analysis: A ghost light goes along with many superstitions in theatre. (Never say Macbeth, a bad final dress rehearsal means a good opening night and vice versa) The ghost light superstition seems ridiculous but it is a serious practice among Thespians. As artists, actors are prone to letting the supernatural have more sway. Perhaps this is because their imaginations are more active than dryer fields of work, or because their work is so subjective and a bad show can be the result of events outside of their control. In either case, a ghost light is one of many theatre superstitions well alive today. 220px-Ghost_Light_on_Stage

Myths
Narrative

How the Raven Gave Light – Haida Gwaii (Canada)

I cannot remember which year it was, but one of the years I stayed behind on the Queen Charlotte Islands for the fishing derby, I had a chance to talk to one of the natives of Masset (which is part of the Haida Gwaii territory) who was selling Haida paraphernalia at the Masset Airport.  He was of Haida descent, and upon asking him about the significance of the numerous raven figurines – I was aware of the significance of ravens in native American legends, but wanted to know how it fit into the heritage of the indigenous people of Haida Gwaii –  he told me the story of how the raven gave light to the world.

At the beginning of time, the world was consumed by darkness.  The Raven had existed since the beginning of time, and was growing tired of living in the dark.  After some period of time, the Raven came across an old man who lived with his one and only daughter.  The old man had a little box that contained all of the light of the universe, and the Raven decided to steal it from the man and his daughter.  Once the daughter went to the river to gather water, the Raven transformed himself into a fir needle and floated in the the daughter’s basket.  She drank the water, needle included, and the Raven found himself in the stomach of the daughter.  He then changed into a human fetus, and was eventually born as the grandson of the old man.  The Raven convinced the old man to allow him to hold the box of light, but when the old man was handing it over, the Raven transformed to his original form and stole the ball of light in the box.  He escaped the house of the old man, and gave the ball of light to the universe.

I’ve gone to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) every summer since I was 8.  It’s our families annual deep-sea fishing trip, and have met many of Haida people.  There are many Haida natives still living in Masset, which is where the airport is.  I have seen many Haida people in my lifetime, as some even lead tours to show off their many totem poles and historical residences.  I am going back this summer, and who knows, maybe I’ll get my own story.  But once again, we see an animal-centered native story.  And I’ve always thought of the raven as an animal of darkness, but in this case the Raven is a source of light.

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